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Wildfire Smoke Update
for
Friday, August 24, 2012 3:45 PM

Satellite Photos | Locations and Smoke Conditions


Today's Report and Forecast Today's Summary
Air quality is in fact improving across most places in Montana this afternoon. That cold front continues to push out of the state, and cleaner air is blowing in from the west and northwest behind it. The wind has been blowing so strong today, gusting near 40 mph at times, that dispersion has been excellent. In other words, that strong wind has pushed the smoke away in many places. However, if you will refer to the black and white satellite image below, we do see that those fires in Idaho are picking up once again and smoke plumes are visible. The fires of biggest concern to Montana are the ones in the Bitterroot forest in Idaho. With such close proximity to western Montana, it is almost impossible not to see some smoke. The heaviest smoke is blowing across the Pioneer Mountains, Tobacco Roots, and over towards Bozeman. There should be some relief from the smoke tonight as high atmospheric winds will blow from the northwest for a while. Fire activity in Montana has not been terrible yet, but with Red Flag Warnings covering the state, those fires may grow in the next few hours and produce smoke plumes like we are seeing in Idaho.

Fire weather will calm down somewhat tomorrow, as the wind will not be nearly as strong. However, tomorrow we will start a warming and drying period, where low relative humidities across the region will be ideal for fire growth again. By Saturday afternoon and through Sunday, those high atmospheric winds, which usually steer those smoke plumes, with come out of the southwest. This puts the Bitterroot Valley, all of southwestern Montana, and up through Helena directly downwind again at least through Wednesday. Therefore, we should expect hazy conditions and generally decreasing air quality across this region for the next few days. Locations that will also be affected are near active Montana fires, like in the Mission Valley, in the Bob Marshall Wilderness, and near Billings. A weather system is currently forecasted to pass over the state on Wednesday and may shape up to be another critical fire day. If the forecast holds, winds will be strong again, relative humidities will be low, and a cold front will pass. Like we saw this week, this would likely grow those fires and produce a lot of smoke again, with some relief by the end of the week behind the front.
Air quality is in fact improving across most places in Montana this afternoon. That cold front continues to push out of the state, and cleaner air is blowing in from the west and northwest behind it. The wind has been blowing so strong today, gusting near 40 mph at times, that dispersion has been excellent. However, we do see that those fires in Idaho are picking up once again and smoke plumes are visible. The fires of biggest concern to Montana are the ones in the Bitterroot forest in Idaho. With such close proximity to western Montana, it is almost impossible not to see some smoke. The heaviest smoke is blowing across the Pioneer Mountains, Tobacco Roots, and over towards Bozeman. Fire activity in Montana has not been terrible yet, but with Red Flag Warnings covering the state, those fires may grow in the next few hours and produce smoke plumes like we are seeing in Idaho.
Residents near active fires and under plumes aloft need to remain aware of current conditions and use the visibility guidelines to guide their activity decisions as the situation changes.

Air Quality Bureau
Montana Department of Environmental Quality
Phone: (406) 444-3490
Email: DEQMTSmoke@mt.gov




This is the visible satellite image from 2:30 this afternoon. Some clouds are to our north, which are associated with the low pressure system passing across Canada, which has brought us this cold front. We also see those three major smoke plumes in Idaho that we have seen for the last couple of weeks. By 2:00, they had just started to become very visible on satellite images. Thankfully, the predominant wind direction will spare most of Montana from this smoke, except the very southwest corner and the Bitterroot Valley. 

This is the visible satellite image from 2:30 this afternoon. Some clouds are to our north, which are associated with the low pressure system passing across Canada, which has brought us this cold front. We also see those three major smoke plumes in Idaho that we have seen for the last couple of weeks. By 2:00, they had just started to become very visible on satellite images. Thankfully, the predominant wind direction will spare most of Montana from this smoke, except the very southwest corner and the Bitterroot Valley.


 
This webcam looks south across the Helena Valley from the Gates of the Mountains. Although some smoke is still visible in the air, it has actually been several days since the silhouette of the mountains on the other side of the valley have been visible from this spot. This is a visual example of the clearer air we are seeing this afternoon!

This webcam looks south across the Helena Valley from the Gates of the Mountains. Although some smoke is still visible in the air, it has actually been several days since the silhouette of the mountains on the other side of the valley have been visible from this spot. This is a visual example of the clearer air we are seeing this afternoon!


This morning’s analysis from NOAA’s satellite services division shows the active fires in Montana and the smoke plumes combining and spreading downwind (the analyzed smoke is based on YESTERDAY'S satellite coverage, the fire detects are based on last nights satellite coverage).

This morning’s analysis from NOAA’s satellite services division shows the active fires in Montana and the smoke plumes combining and spreading downwind (the analyzed smoke is based on YESTERDAY'S satellite coverage, the fire detects are based on last nights satellite coverage).

Red indicates hot spot detected. Green represents thin smoke, yellow is moderate smoke, and pink is dense smoke. Fire size is exaggerated for visibility at this scale. To identify individual fires on graphic above go here: http://activefiremaps.fs.fed.us/lg_fire2.php 




Real time particulate information is currently available in most of the larger urban areas from MTDEQ's Today's Air website.

Today's particulate report below compares particulate levels received from DEQ's
reporting stations with MTDEQ’s Health Effect Categories.

Locations and severity of PM 2.5 particulate values over the past 24 hours from the time above.
Health Effects Categories City
  Hazardous  
  Very Unhealthy  
  Unhealthy  
  Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups  Bozeman B24(5), B8(3)
West Yellowstone B24(3), B8(3)
  Moderate

 Billings B24 

  Good

 Hamilton B1(7)
Butte B1(3)
Great Falls B1(3)
Missoula
Frenchtown
Libby
Flathead Valley
Seeley Lake
Helena
Sidney
 

B1(x) One-hour BAM value (number of values)
B8(x) Eight-hour average BAM
B24 24 hour  average BAM value
Local impacts in areas immediately adjacent to active fires are expected to exceed some or all of the advisory levels.  DEQ recommends the use of local visibility guidelines to evaluate possible health risks and make informed activity decisions.